During his closing speech at China’s National People’s Congress, President Xi Jinping stated his intentions to transform the Chinese military into a “Great Wall of Steel”, capable of protecting China’s interests overseas while emphasising the need for greater stability and security within the country. Xi’s speech came after his securing of an unprecedented third term in office, despite facing many challenges for China as it navigates a post-zero-COVID landscape, a slowing economy, and a more difficult relationship with the West, particularly with the United States.
In his speech, Xi highlighted that security is fundamental to development while stability is a necessity for prosperity. He stressed the need for an enhanced “national security system” and “social governance system”, and for safeguarding “China’s new development pattern with a new security architecture”. This reflected the Communist Party’s concerns shared during their 20th National Congress in October, where Xi used the word “security” 91 times, according to the Brookings Institution.
China is currently in the midst of a large-scale military modernisation campaign which will be capable of “effectively safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests” when it concludes in 2035. Xi stated that the armed forces will become a “Great Wall of Steel”. China exerts a significant impact in the region, possessing the powerful People’s Liberation Army, military bases, and island building in the South China Sea, and exerting sway over domestic politics in neighbouring countries such as Cambodia to Micronesia.
Xi’s concerns for “security” also extend to the home front, where officials have set a modest GDP target of just 5% in 2023, reflecting the lasting effects of three years of the zero-COVID strategy. He spoke of China’s ongoing efforts to guarantee the “great rejuvenation” of the Chinese nation for all its citizens. Xi highlighted that the country should concentrate on science and technology fields as well as industrial transformation to enhance and appropriately expand the economy, benefiting the whole economy, and ensuring the passing of the relay baton of constructing a great modern socialist country and advancing national rejuvenation to China’s future generations.
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